Governor Expanding Health Coverage for Uninsured Children

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Knoxville (WVLT) -- Governor Phil Bredesen has announced CoverKids will start providing enrollees with dental and vision benefits beginning next year.

Area children's health care providers say it's a victory for children and families that will benefit the entire state.

East Tennessee Children's Hospital provides some of the most urgent care to area children in emergency situations.

But currently, CoverKids provides only basic preventive care, things like vaccinations, doctor and hospital visits and prescriptions.

Vision and dental problems are not covered.

"We really do a lot of oral surgery and it's because kids aren't able to access preventative health care for their teeth,” said Keith Goodwin, president of the East Tennessee Children’s hospital. “As a result, they have significant problems that go unresolved."

The CoverKids vision benefit will begin January 1st, 2008.

It will pay for annual vision exams and glaucoma testing, as well as new lenses or contacts, and replacements.

The dental benefit is expected to take effect a few months later.

It pays for two oral examinations, fluoride treatments, dental sealants and two cleanings a year.

Goodwin says this expansion of benefits will bring Tennessee more in line with benefits provided to uninsured children in other states.

"This is expanding our eligibility and that's what CoverKids has been able to do,” Goodwin said. “It is expanding TennCare into a larger population of children and also expand services. I think, in that sense it does make it a little more equivalent with other states."

About 13,000 children are currently enrolled in CoverKids.

A Tennessee family of four with a yearly income of less than 51,600 will qualify.

In addition, pregnant women will be eligible to receive vision and dental benefits under CoverKids' Healthy Tennessee Babies program for the duration of their maternity coverage.

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